“We’re doing all we can to address the backlog,” Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said. “We’ve just never seen anything like this in the history of our responsibility for licensing firearms. The numbers are just staggering.”
Last week, the backlog stood at 26,547 as troopers worked on applications filed in March.
National studies suggest the trend is driven not by first-time gun buyers but by gun owners like Schulte adding to their collections. While gun sales have been on the rise over the past few decades, the proportion of households with guns has been on the decline, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
Data collected annually by the General Social Survey, which is affiliated with the University of Chicago, found that gun ownership nationwide has declined from nearly half of all households in 1973 to about a third in 2012. The result, researchers said, is a concentration of gun ownership.
Schulte, a 50-year-old land surveyor from Pasadena, said he primarily owned hunting rifles before the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Since Maryland legislators began debating — and ultimately passed — a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons, limits on magazines and other gun control rules, he’s bought three pistols and two assault-style rifles. The new law will take effect Oct. 1.
“If someone tells me I can’t have it, that’s the first reason I want to have it,” Schulte said.
Dealers, meanwhile, have been storing guns they have sold but are fearful to release. At Pasadena Pawn and Gun, Loane increased his insurance premiums to cover the 75 assault rifles and roughly 150 other guns he has sold but has yet to deliver to customers.
“You’ve got a lot of (angry) customers,” said Carl Roy, president of Maryland Small Arms Range Inc. in Prince George’s County. “The law says the gun should be released in seven days. You’re now waiting 60, 70 days? And you don’t have a criminal history, but you have to wait because the Maryland State Police can’t get their act together? Wouldn’t you be mad, too?”